Tag Archives: pumpkin soup

The Joys of Pumpkin (Pumpkin soup with chilli and ginger)

Halloween, followed closely by bonfire night, is a well entrenched tradition for our children and their friends, highly anticipated, planned and enthusiastically enjoyed by all. Therefore it was with some disappointment that I reluctantly cancelled our Halloween dinner. I’d looked forward to a vampire theme menu and dressing up but the usual problem prevailed, not enough bookings. Themed nights are still a bit hit and miss for me, but that doesn’t stop me trying and so I will continue to do so.

Despite no ‘official’ dinner, the night was duly marked and enjoyed with all the trappings of a traditional Halloween; pumpkin carving, masses of sweets (for trick or treaters), dressing up in spooky costumes, the consumption of plenty of hot pumpkin soup, followed up by tarte tatin with its luscious caramel apple centre.

Vampires abound

Gruesome gangsters

a few hags…well two actually. Notice the teen looks rather beautiful, hhmmm

Pumpkin itself tends to be overlooked and hugely underrated. Most people will simply carve theirs out and throw away the flesh, under the impression that it is a watery and insipid vegetable. I’m amazed at how many people I hear say they don’t like pumpkin, but I often wonder what kind of experience they’ve had of it.  Perhaps in a bland and tasteless pie, or mashed to within an inch of its life, or even in a thin, uninspired and under seasoned soup. I simply think that with the right kind of advice on what to do with it most people will warm to pumpkin soup.

My own Pumpkin  soup with chilli and ginger (adapted from a River Cafe recipe) seems to have won many Pumpkin haters over recently. With the glut we’ve had at Moelyci I seem to have a constant pot of it on the go. It’s so easy everyone should have a go at making it!

Simply peel and finely chop a couple of red onions and fry gently in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and 50g butter. When soft add a couple of crushed garlic cloves, the leaves from a few sprigs of fresh marjoram, about an inch or two of fresh ginger peeled and grated and cook for 30 seconds before adding 1.5kg (that’s about 3 and a quarter pounds) of pumpkin and 150g scrubbed and diced new potatoes. I say new, but generally its main crop potatoes at this time of year and I can’t see much difference really. Cover the vegetables in the pan with good vegetable stock and season with salt, pepper and a small crumbled dried red Chilli (or use fresh if you would like it to knock your socks off). Simmer gently until cooked, about 20 minutes or so. Allow to cool briefly before blitzing in a blender. Check the seasoning then serve with toasted crostini (basically ciabatta, crisped in the oven or toasted under the grill, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic), and a bit of grated parmesan.

This soup cries autumn! It’s warming and comforting, not just for Halloween, but for the whole of the season, well at least until those pumpkins run out.

Even Vampires and hags need pumpkin soup!

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Italian River Cafe inspired dinner accompanied by a good old sing-song round the piano

The instruction for this private dinner for twelve was soup to begin, red meat for main and plenty of everything!! Simon, who organised the evening was a returning guest, this time accompanied by a different group of friends, mainly teachers, but all lovers of good food.

With the simple instructions above I settled on a seasonal, River Cafe inspired menu. I use the River Cafe Cook book a lot at home  and I particularly love their Pumpkin soup recipe (although I usually add a bit of ginger) so I decided to do this for starter, especially since Pumpkins are just coming into season and we’ve had so many at Moelyci. For main I chose a dish of braised beef wrapped in Coppa de Parma, with Parmesan mash and seasonal veg.  Living in Wales and not having the choice of deli’s and shops available elsewhere, I ordered my Coppa di Parma and aged Parmesan from Italian online deli nife is life and amazingly they delivered to my postcode (believe me, not everywhere does) and within two days!!

For dessert I put my own twist on the classic Italian Tiramisu (one of my favourite ever puds), this time with cointreau and white chocolate (I have also made it with Baileys and white chocolate which is just as yummy) and served with a drizzle of sharp Tayberry sauce).

The twelve made for a very cosy group, but having been before they were prepared for this. Sat at two tables of six (a girls table and a boys table!) we started the evening with Pomegranite Bellini’s (Three parts Prosecco one part Pomegranite) and Focaccia ‘shots’ (al la msmarmitelover ). All ran smoothly until Anya, one of my teen helpers had to disappear…she’d given vague indications about how long she could stay and what time she  had to leave (her social life was calling!!) but she chose the moment immediately before the main course was about to be plated to make her exit…subsequently for the first time ever, I had a little panic….well quite a big panic actually. The beef took longer to cook than anticipated (twice as long actually), I worried about guests waiting too long for their mains, then I worried that the food was going to go cold as I struggled to carve the beef in an attractive way….it started to fall apart….(the beef not the evening…although I was well on my way to do doing the same). The sauce ran out and I had to make more. I’m sure they were just being polite when I asked if the beef was too red/not hot enough/OK….they said yes, but I know it could have been better. So sick was I of trying to rectify the main course that when one or two of the men hopefully suggested seconds, I think I was a little too quick to say ‘sorry, none left’.

After the battle with the beef everything else was stress free. Thankfully the Tiramisu redeemed me, especially with the girls who raved over it. One lady put away three portions (some passed over buy the men who didn’t have a sweet tooth)….the plate was wrestled from her grip as she proceeded to embark on plate four!!…One friend said “if there’s food about, she will eat it”….As a very fit looking sports teacher, I guessed it didn’t do her any harm!!!

Food, beer and wine left little room for cheese, although some gave it a go. Pots of coffee rolled out and the entertainment began. One chap turned to me and said “10% of the Welsh can sing…..and the other 90% do!!” before launching into song with the rest of them. At some point the piano lid was opened and the singing was accompanied by our very out of tune upright.  As the evening drew on I wondered if the neighbours were able to hear all of it….

The last time Simon visited supper club (read back over festive pants and piss pots of plonk) he showed us his (festive) pants. He had strict instructions not to repeat the event. By the end of the night we were once again graced with a vision of Batman pants (no I didn’t take a picture, but if he does it again next time he comes I think I will be obliged to!!).

It was a good night and I learnt a few lessons. No complicated beef. Make sure the teen waitress is committing to help the whole night. Tune the piano and don’t let strange men show you their pants in the kitchen!

The menu for the evening was:

Pomegranite Bellinis and Focaccia shots

Zuppa di Zucca (Pumpkin soup, with chilli and ginger)…served with garlic-parmesan croutons. For six people you need 1.5k pumpkin flesh chopped, 150g potatoes peeled and chopped, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 50g butter, 2 small red onions finely chopped, 2 garlic cloves, 4 large sprigs of marjoram, 1 small red chilli or dried chilli finely chopped,  about an inch of ginger, peeled and grated, 1 litre chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you are vegetarian).

Cook the onion in the oil and butter until soft. Stir in garlic, marjoram, pumpkin and potato and cook for a minute or two. Add chilli, ginger, salt and pepper then add enough stock to just cover the pumpkin. Simmer on a lowish heat until the pumpkin is tender (20 mins or so). If it needs more stock just keep topping up.

When its cooked strain off about a third of the stock and set aside. Puree the rest in a blender or food processor. The mixture will be very think. Return to the pan with the stock put aside. Check seasoning and serve. I served it with sliced and toasted ciabatta or sourdough, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil. I also scattered over a handfull of parmesan cheese.

scooping out the pumpkins for the soup

Braised beef fillet with garlic, rosemary and Coppa di Parma

a mixture of orange, white, rainbow and purple carrots

the teens hard at work

Parmesan mash, rainbow carrots dada and seasonal beans

White chocolate and cointreau Tiramisu with Tayberry sauce

Large dishes of Tiramisu...looking somewhat like crumble with the white chocolate coated top

plated tiramisu with tayberry sauce

Welsh cheeses, chutney and coffee

the boys table

the girls

sing-song around the piano

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Halloween feasts and spooky cookies

Pumpkin soup, Fresh Ciabatta, mini baked potatoes with sea salt and a dollop of Mascarpone on top…finished off with Halloween cookies, some trick or treating and then off to the Halloween ball….perfect!

Despite being skint we couldn’t resist an impromptu Halloween feast. The house was full of teenagers already and I felt as though i’d become the street pumpkin recycling zone, with every other neighbour arriving on my doorstep with bowls of pumpkin flesh

“could you do something with this?” they asked….and never one to throw food away I obliged with several cauldrons of soup. In fact enough soup to feed at least 30!!!!

So armed with a Cauldron of soup, some roasted pumpkin seeds and a ton of baked potatoes topped with creamy mascarpone I invited all and sundry for impromptu supper.

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Rolling out the dough

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Getting the kids into the spirit of things I set them up making Halloween cookies, the recipe is dead easy and the cookies are delicious.

Halloween cookies:

75g (3oz) icing sugar

150g (50z) butter.

Once soft and light they added the grated rind of one lemon and a tablespoon of the lemon juice.

225g (8oz) plain flour

Cream the butter and sugar until soft and light. Add the grated rind of one small lemon and a tablespoon of juice. Then mix in the flour and work the mixture into a ball of dough. On a floured table roll the mixture out until it is about quarter of an inch (5mm) thick then cut out shapes using Halloween cutters. Bake the cookies on gas mark 4 (180 degrees C, 350 F) for about 15 mins. Once cool you can decorate the cookies with coloured glace icing (just icing sugar mixed with a couple of teaspoons of hot water) or melted Green and Blacks milk chocolate.

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A Halloween feast

The first sitting consisted of 4 teenagers, one little un and three adults. Once the kids disappeared on their trick or treating the remaining adults sat down to wine and yet more soup.

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A visiting hag

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getting ready to go trick or treating

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